The 9 best travel credit cards in Canada for 2019
by October 9, 2019 / 8 Comments

Travel can be expensive, but a good travel credit card can help offset the cost — or help you travel for free — by rewarding you points or miles for making everyday purchases.

In addition to earning points that can be redeemed for everything from flight tickets and hotel stays to cruises, vacation packages and more, most travel cards also offer side perks including access to VIP airport lounges, spending bonus offers and travel insurance that can further help you save on travel.

To help you decode the ins and outs of travel rewards programs, we’ve rounded up the best travel credit cards in Canada for 2019.

The best travel credit cards in Canada for 2019

Best travel credit cards for everyday spending

Scotiabank Gold American Express

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn 5 Scotia Rewards points per dollar spent on groceries, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment
  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on gas, public transit, and streaming services
  • Earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else
  • Welcome Offer: Up to 30,000 bonus points (value: $300); 25k points after $1,000 is spent on the card in the first 3 months and another 5k after $10,000 is spent by the first year
  • No foreign transaction fees

On August 1st, Scotiabank announced a slew of changes to the Scotiabank Gold American Express that further cements its place as one of the best travel credit cards in Canada. With this card, you’ll now get five Scotia Rewards points for every $1 you spend on groceries, restaurants and entertainment, three points per dollar on gas, daily transit, and streaming services, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. The card now also comes with no foreign transaction fees and a sign-up bonus of up to 30,000 points.

When redeemed for travel, 5,000 Scotia Rewards points equals $50, which works out to the equivalent of 1 point = 1%. Travel includes everything from flights and hotels to cruises and vacation packages.

Why we like it:

In addition to its rich rewards structure, which will net you some of the highest returns on your food and commute-related spending, points earned on the Scotiabank Gold American Express are flexible. There are no restrictions on travel dates or airlines, and points can be used to cover taxes and fees. You can choose to book your travel through Scotia’s full-service agency or on your own and use points to cover the cost.

Since it no longer has foreign transaction fees, you also won’t have to worry about racking up additional charges when making purchases abroad (which will come in handy particularly when travelling south of the border, where AMEX is widely accepted). The 30,000 point welcome bonus can also help you fast-track your travel plans.

Card travel insurance benefits:

Book your trip on this card and you’ll be covered up to $1 million for travel medical emergencies for 25 days. This card also features travel accident insurance of $500,000, rental car damage and collision insurance, hotel burglary coverage and baggage delay insurance of $1,000 per trip that comes into effect after only 4 hours.

Additional perks

The card offers a 30% discount on a yearly Priority Pass membership, which grants you access to VIP airport lounges in more than 100 countries worldwide. The discounted annual membership price is USD$65, and each lounge visit costs USD$27. Scotiabank Gold American Express cardholders also have access to 24/7 concierge services.

American Express Cobalt Card

  • Annual fee: $120 (charged at $10 monthly)
  • Earn 5 points per dollar on “eats and drinks”: restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and food delivery
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on “travel and transit”: gas, taxis, public transportation and travel (air, water, rail, or road transport, plus hotels)
  • Welcome Offer: 2,500 points every month you spend $500 in your 1st year (total value of $300)
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

The American Express (AMEX) Cobalt Card is another travel card that offers impressive rewards on your usual daily purchases – with five points for every $1 spent on “eats and drinks” and two points for every $1 on “travel and transit.” When redeemed for travel, 1,000 Membership Rewards points = $10, or the equivalent of 1%.

Since the AMEX Cobalt and the aforementioned Scotiabank Gold American Express are undeniably similar, it can be tough to decide between the two. But, each does have its advantages over the other.

The AMEX Cobalt offers more points on flight tickets and access to the valuable Fixed Points Travel Program, while the Scotiabank Gold comes out ahead in terms of rewards on gas and daily transit, and for waiving its foreign transaction fees. Deciding between the two largely depends on your spending personality.

Why we like it:

Along with its high earn rate on everyday purchases, the welcome offer is another of the card’s stand-out features. You’ll earn 2,500 bonus points each month you spend at least $500 during your first year as a new cardholder (up to 30,000 points / $300 value). The Cobalt’s $120 annual fee is also easier to manage as it’s charged at a monthly rate of $10 rather than all at once. Lastly, points can be used to cover taxes and fees, and you can tap AMEX’s Fixed Points Travel Program to squeeze even more value out of your points when flying.

Card travel insurance benefits:

The card includes a full suite of travel insurance benefits, including travel emergency medical ($5,000,000 for 15 days) and travel accident insurance ($250,000), flight delay ($500) and baggage loss/delay ($500 per trip). The Cobalt’s car rental insurance covers collision, loss and damage for vehicles with an MSRP of up to $85,000.

Additional perks:

American Express Cobalt cardholders get access to special offers including ticket pre-sales and reserved seats for concerts, movies and culinary events through American Express Invites, as well as 24/7 concierge services.

Best travel credit cards for frequent flyers

TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $120 (waived for the first year)
  • Welcome offer: Get 20,000 TD Points ($100 value) after you make your first purchase
  • Earn 9 TD Points per $1 on travel through ExpediaforTD
  • Earn 3 TD Points per $1 on everything else
  • Get 5X the points on all your purchases for the first 3 months (up to a maximum of 20,000 points each month)

The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite is arguably the frequent traveller’s credit card, thanks in no small part to its flexible airline options and high return on travel spending.

Through TD’s and Expedia’s co-branded website ( cardholders can earn and redeem points for flights from hundreds of airlines as well as hotels and other travel-related expenses, such as car rentals and all-inclusive vacations. For all purchases made through ExpediaforTD, this card will earn you 9 TD points per dollar. 1 TD Point = $0.005, so that adds up to 4.5% on almost all travel spending. For all other purchases, this card offers 3 TD points per dollar.

The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite also provides new cardholders with a first-year annual fee waiver and a two-tiered points bonus: 20,000 TD points after the initial purchase and the ability to rack up 5X times the points on every purchase for the first three months up to 60,000 points.

Why we like it:

First and foremost: the welcome offer. The 80,000 TD point bonus combined with the annual fee waiver means new cardholders can get up to $520 in added value in the first year alone.

This card also offers one of the richest rewards for travel spending, with a regular earn rate of 4.5% per dollar on any purchase made on ExpediaforTD. That’s more than double the rewards rate on travel spending offered by most of the other cards on this list and considerable bang for your buck if you’re a frequent flyer who spends big on flights.

With the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite, you’ll also have flexibility on your side as this card offers access to Expedia’s complete inventory of airlines and hotels. That means you won’t have to worry about black-out dates or seat restrictions. Lastly, with the ability to redeem rewards from increments of only 200 points, you won’t have to rack up thousands of points for them to be put to good use.

Card travel insurance benefits:

This card includes up to $1,000,000 in travel medical insurance for 21 consecutive days (or 4 days for seniors), trip cancellation coverage of $1,500 per person and $1,000 in lost or delayed baggage insurance. You’ll also get the standard auto collision and loss damage waiver for rental cars for a period of up to 48 consecutive days.

Additional perks:

Cardholders can get up to 10% off car rentals from select Avis and Budget locations and an annual discount to Priority Pass Memberships.

BMO World Elite MasterCard

  • $150 annual fee (waived for the first year)
  • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per dollar on travel, dining and entertainment purchases; 2 points per dollar on everything else
  • Earn 35,000 bonus points (value: $250) when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • VIP lounge access with the included Mastercard Airport Experiences membership, plus 4 complimentary passes per year ($140 value)

The BMO World Elite MasterCard is a popular card for frequent travellers who tend to spend big on going out and airfare. With this card, you’ll earn three BMO Rewards points per dollar on travel, restaurant and entertainment purchases, and two points per dollar on everything else. If you spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months, you can earn 35,000 bonus points ($250 value). Points can be redeemed for flights, hotels, vacation packages and car rentals. The card’s annual fee is $150, which is waived for new cardholders for the first year.

Why we like it:

This card is big on perks and flexibility and offers the ability to redeem points for flights on any airline with no blackout dates (points can also be used to cover taxes and fees). Not to mention, the BMO World Elite Mastercard currently boasts one of the strongest welcome offers of any travel credit card in Canada with a first-year annual fee waiver and 35,000 bonus points (potential combined value of $400).

Card travel insurance benefits:

The card includes coverage under World Elite travel insurance, which offers $2 million in travel emergency medical (for up to 21 days, ages 65 and under) and $500,000 in travel accident insurance.

Additional perks:

The card comes with an annual MasterCard Airport Experiences membership (plus four free passes per year), which gives you access to VIP airport lounges around the world ($140 in added value).

No foreign transaction fee travel credit cards

Home Trust Preferred Visa

  • No annual fee
  • 0% foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on the amount you can earn
  • Not available to residents of Quebec

The Home Trust Preferred Visa isn’t a travel credit card, per se, but it offers travellers a major benefit most credit cards lack: 0% foreign transaction fees. This means if you make a purchase in a currency other than the Canadian dollar, it doesn’t charge you any additional fees (most cards tack on a fee of 2-3% of the purchase price). With this card, you’ll also earn 1% cash back on all purchases. Note that this card isn’t available to residents of Quebec and is limited to 10 transactions per day.

Why we like it:

It’s one of the few credit cards currently on the market in Canada with no foreign transaction fees. With no annual fee, this is a good card to keep in your wallet if you travel frequently or make a lot of purchases abroad in foreign currencies. There’s also no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn on the card.

Card travel insurance benefits:

As a no annual fee card, the Home Trust Preferred Visa doesn’t boast as comprehensive of an insurance package as the other cards on this list. With that being said, it does offer rental car collision and loss damage provided by Royal Sun & Alliance Company of Canada.

Additional perks:

The Home Trust Preferred Visa is among the handful of credit cards with free roadside assistance.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • Annual fee: $139
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and transit purchases
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Welcome Offer: Get 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) with your first $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months and 10,000 additional points if you spend $40,000 annually
  • Includes Priority Pass airport lounge membership with 6 free visits per year

The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is now one of two cards from Scotiabank that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees but remains the only one that’s issued by Visa (the Scotiabank Gold American Express being the other card in question).

With this card, you’ll earn two Scotia Rewards points for every $1 spent on groceries, dining, entertainment (including movies, concert tickets, musicals, plays and orchestras), and transit (including buses, subways, taxis, limos, trains and ferries). For all other purchases, you’ll earn one point per dollar. The card’s annual fee is $139.

Why we like it:

The 0% foreign transaction fee is the icing on the cake of a card rich with perks, spending bonuses and flexibility. If you spend $1,000 on the card in the first three months, you can earn 25,000 bonus points (value: $250). The card includes a Priority Pass membership and six free visits annually to VIP airport lounges worldwide. You can redeem points for flights on any carrier with no date restrictions and book your trip through Scotia’s full-service travel agency or on your own. Lastly, the fact it’s a Visa Card means it’ll be widely accepted internationally.

Card travel insurance benefits:

This card offers the same suite of travel insurance benefits as the aforementioned Scotiabank Gold American Express – including travel emergency medical and accident coverage, trip cancellation and interruption, flight delay, baggage loss, car rental collision/loss damage waiver and more (read full insurance details here).

Additional perks:

If you make at least $40,000 in purchases annually on the card, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 Scotia Rewards points. You also receive six complimentary passes to Priority Pass airport lounges.

Best travel credit cards with no annual fee

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard®

  • No annual fee
  • For the first 90 days, earn 4 points per $1 on eligible gas, groceries and restaurant purchases
  • After 90 days, get 2 points‡ per $1 on gas, groceries and restaurants ($5,000 annual cap on each category)
  • 1 point‡ for every $1 spent on all other eligible purchases
  • Welcome Offer: Get up to 10,000 bonus points

The MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus® Mastercard® is a no-fee travel card that gives you two points for every $1 spent on gas, grocery and restaurant purchases (up to $5,000 annually per each category), and one point per dollar on everything else.

Why we like it:

The card has no annual fee but still offers the ability to earn bonus points in three different spending categories. Plus, as a new cardholder, you can earn a 10,000 point welcome bonus – 5,000 points after spending $500 within the first 90 days of opening your account and another 5,000 points just for signing up for online e-statements in those same 90 days. There are no blackout dates on travel, and points can be used to cover taxes and fees on any airline. 1 MBNA point equals $0.01 (1%) when redeemed for travel.

Card travel insurance benefits:

Even with no annual fee, the card comes with a strong insurance package that includes common carrier accident coverage, car rental collision/loss damage waiver, and trip cancellation insurance in instances when an immediate relative passes away and you have to travel back home.

Scotiabank American Express Card

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 1 Scotia Rewards point per dollar on all purchases
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points with your first $500 in purchases in first 3 months
  • Redeem for travel, merchandise, gift cards, or statement credit

The Scotiabank American Express Card has no annual fee and offers a flat rate of one Scotia Rewards point per dollar on all purchases. As an additional benefit, new cardholders are also eligible to earn 5,000 bonus points after making $500 in purchases on the card within the first three months – which equates to $50 in free in travel rewards.

Why we like it:

It’s a straight-forward no annual fee rewards credit card with excellent travel coverage and flexible points that can be redeemed for flights on any airline with no black out date or seat restrictions.

Card travel insurance benefits:

Travellers are insured with $1,000,000 in emergency medical insurance for eight consecutive days, $250,000 in travel accident insurance, trip interruption coverage and car rental collision/loss damage. All impressive coverage terms for a card that costs nothing to carry.

Additional perks:

Cardholders can take advantage of a special 25% discount off of qualifying car rentals at participating Avis and Budget locations.

Best hotel credit card

Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Earn 5 points in eligible Card purchases at participating Marriott Rewards hotels and 2 points on all other purchases
  • Welcome Bonus: 50,000 points when you make $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • Automatic Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite Status

For many frequent travellers, earning points that can be redeemed for discounted accommodation or a free nights stay at a hotel is just as (if not more) important as securing a deal on a flight ticket.

Enter the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card. Relaunched in February following the merger of Starwood and Marriott, this card offers 5 points per dollar spent at any of the 7,000 hotels under the Marriott umbrella and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for free nights at any of those same 7,000 hotels, which includes brands such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Delta and over a dozen others. This card also features a large welcome bonus of 50,000 points after spending your first $1,500.

Why we like it:

This credit card gives one of the highest returns on hotel bookings at 5 points per dollar, with points that can be redeemed at over 6,500 hotels worldwide. If you hit the welcome offer spending threshold, you’ll also earn enough free points to book up to four free night stays at select hotels. Another added plus of this card is its wide array of point transfer options. You can convert Bonvoy points to the loyalty programs of over 40 airlines.

Additional benefits:

With a Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, you’ll receive a free hotel stay each year on your cardholder anniversary. You’ll also automatically be enrolled into Bonvoy Silver Elite status, which offers a number of perks including priority late checkouts and discounts on bookings and gift store purchases at participating hotels.

How to choose a travel credit card

With Canadians enjoying more choice thanks to an ever-growing array of travel credit cards, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to pick the one that works best for you. Luckily, by educating yourself about a few key features, it can be easier to select the card that matches your needs and spending habits the most. Here are some important things to consider:

Sign-up bonus

  • While bigger is generally better when it comes to sign-up bonuses, consider whether the card is the right fit for you in the long run. Simply put, don’t let an offer alone sway you into picking a particular card since you’ll likely keep it even after the offer ends.
  • You’ll also want to get familiar with the terms of the sign-up offer, as you may need to hit a minimum spend within a specific time-frame in order to receive the bonus (i.e. making at least $1,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of opening your account).

Earn rate

  • There are two kinds of earn rates: 1. A flat earn rate that offers the same rewards for all types of spending or 2. Cards that offer a higher return on specific categories like gas, groceries, or dining.
  • To maximize rewards, you should ensure that any revved-up bonus categories match your spending patterns.


  • General travel cards offer great flexibility by letting you redeem miles or points for a range of items, including flights on any airline — an ideal option if you don’t favour a particular carrier.
  • Co-branded cards only let you redeem points at select partners, however, they often feature airline or hotel-specific benefits and perks typically not available on cards that aren’t co-branded or affiliated with a specific loyalty program (i.e. free checked bags and discounts on companion flights).

Perks and benefits

  • While not as eye-catching as a big welcome bonus, perks can save you lots of money and make flying or hotel stays more enjoyable.
  • Important benefits to look out for include insurance (like medical, lost baggage, and hotel theft), rental car discounts and airport lounge access.
  • Evaluate the relevance of a card’s perks by how much use you’ll actually get out of them.

Annual fee

  • The majority of premium travel cards come with an annual fee averaging $120.
  • You’ll want to assess whether the card’s rewards and money-saving perks (like travel insurance) will help you come out ahead and offer more value than the annual fee (consider testing out our handy credit card calculator here).

Eligibility requirements

  • Top travel cards tend to have specific income and credit score requirements (typically around $60,000 and 650 respectively).
  • Ensure you fit the requirements rather than applying willy-nilly because a hard check on your credit rating could decrease your score by up to 10 points. The best course of action is to research if a card has an income requirement and check your credit score before you applying (note: unlike when a card issuer or bank inquires about your score, checking your own credit score won’t impact it in any way).

How to maximize your travel credit rewards

There’s more to making the most of your travel credit card than just charging all of your purchases on it. With a little know-how and effort, cardholders can boost the benefits of any reward card.

One of the main ways to maximize your travel credit card (or any credit card for that matter) is to use it responsibly by paying off the balance in full each and every month. All the bonuses and benefits in the world won’t make up for the hundreds of dollars in potential interest charges you could add to your balance if you don’t pay it off in full every month. Not to mention the hit your credit score will take if you have a negligent repayment history. If you consistently carry a balance, a low interest credit card or one with a generous balance transfer option would likely be a better fit.

Travel credit cards are geared mostly towards travel redemptions. Though you can often use points or miles for statement credits, merchandise or gift cards, these options typically offer less value for your points than they would if redeemed for flight or hotel redemptions. For example, Scotia Rewards Points are worth $0.01 if you redeem them for travel, but lose about a third of their value if you redeem them for a statement credit. Generally speaking, if you don’t travel much yet want to reap significant rewards, it’s likely that you’ll get more bang for your buck with a cash back credit card instead.

Be a double-dipper. Sure, no one likes a double dipper when it comes to chips and dip, but the practice can up your rewards game by letting you earn additional rewards from an airline or hotel loyalty program when you use your travel credit card. For example, if you carry an Aeroplan credit card, you’ll earn bonus miles when shopping on the Aeroplan Estore, super-charging your point accumulation.

Different travel redemption models

There are three main redemption models by which travel credit cards operate, with each having its own level of difficulty in terms of ease of use. Some rewards programs, like American Express Rewards, even let you access multiple models.

Consistent points: This is when the points you earn have a consistent value and don’t fluctuate based on when or where you’re flying to. Scotia Rewards Points, for instance, always equal $0.01 when redeemed for travel. These consistent models are appealing because of their simplicity and transparency (i.e. it’s easy to determine the exact value of your rewards).

Fluctuating points: In this type of model, rewards don’t have a consistent value and change depending on where you go (as with Aeroplan) and possibly when you travel (as with Marriott Bonvoy, which recently introduced peak and off-peak point values). These models are usually based on charts and tables that cardholders must consult to know the value of their points. These programs are harder to understand and determining the value of your points isn’t as straightforward. That being said, if you’re willing to do the research, they can offer unique and much more generous redemption opportunities, such as far cheaper business class tickets or stays at ultra-premium hotels that might not normally be affordable.

Point transfers: Another interesting, if complex, point redemption model is when some cards let you transfer points from one rewards program to another. Marriott Bonvoy, for example, lets cardholders transfer Bonvoy points to the loyalty programs of over 40 airlines. Yes, you’ll have to put in some time to figure out the transfer ratio but if you play it right, you can use this advantage to earn more points from one program and redeem them for a higher value by transferring them to another program.

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